FootJoy goes minimal with M:PROJECT

The new M PROJECT by FootJoy

The minimalist footwear movement has gained another major advocate: FootJoy.

The concept, which first gained popularity in running, preaches shoe design and construction that enables the foot to move as if it was essentially barefoot. In running, supporters say, minimalist shoes lead not only to more efficient form and movement, but fewer injuries. Considering how proper footwork lends itself to a better swing, it's no surprise that minimalist shoe makers have surfaced in golf in recent years.

Now, FootJoy has entered the growing category with its M:PROJECT shoe. Unlike some minimalist advocates, however, FootJoy isn't endorsing the barefoot trend as the answer for every golfer's footwear needs. But company officials say the M:PROJECT delivers more comfort and flexibility and can help develop better balance.

"We've been tracking the minimalist trend for the past couple of years, and we've been in development of this type of product for over 18 months now," said Doug Robinson, FootJoy's vice president for golf footwear worldwide.

"We think it's an important concept that fits well in our overall line structure," said Robinson, adding that the M:PROJECT expands and complements the company's offerings, which include extremely stable products such as the XPS-1 and Icon shoes.

The minimalist movement gained traction in running as its advocates said excessive cushioning was restricting muscle movement in the feet – in essence, comparing it with the atrophying that occurs when a cast is placed on an injured limb. A stripped-down shoe and a lower heel, they insist, produce more natural and healthier movement.

By delivering similar benefits for golf, the minimalist movement is here to stay, according to FootJoy executive Rob Kelley.

Including all brands making such shoes, minimalist footwear "could be 10 percent of the market by the end of the year," he said.

It was up to Richard Mochen, a FootJoy senior designer involved in the creation of the M-Project, to make minimalism appropriate for golf.

"Some of what they were doing in running went almost too minimalist and wasn't offering enough protection," Mochen said. "People were complaining their feet were getting cold or they needed more support. We've learned from the good and the bad, and made adjustments because golf is a different sport."

Among the M:PROJECT's key features: A generous forefoot shape that allows the toes to spread and grip better; a Laser Thin Duramax outsole that is thinner to lower the golfer to the ground; P.I.N.S System cleats and receptacles that also are shallower and contribute to the shoe's lower profile; and M:SPEC leather by Pittards that provides a supple and comfortable feel. Suggested retail prices ranges from $135 to $165; several models are available, including cleated and spikeless options.

In addition, the M:PROJECT's heel height is 40 percent lower than the heel height of conventional shoes, which typically ranges from 1.00 to 1.25 inches, according to Mochen.

The combined features and design of the shoe help make it an aid in developing better balance, Kelley said.

"With a shoe like M:Project, you're forced to find your center of balance over the ball," he said. "A lot of other shoes we make are stabilizing type of products, and they almost have crutches to help you find your balance. Many golfers swing too hard at it, and we've made shoes to accommodate that. But by taking those crutches off, you won't have a safety net, but the the more you play in a product like this you'll stay in better balance."

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